Months To Years Summer 2018 MTY_Summer2018_v7 - Page 45

Cliff was an elderly man with patchy white hair and staff had transported him out of the state by helicopter to cloudy, blue eyes. Although he was a wheelchair user, he receive more extensive care than what could be provided went nowhere without his neon orange Nike sneakers. An in our small, rural hospital. He was expected to make a full inquisitive world adventurer, Cliff had traveled everywhere, recovery after some physical therapy and would return to even to Sri Lanka where my family was from. We had long the facility soon. conversations about Buddhism, philosophy, and Eastern cultures. We met halfway in our interests: we explored his I was sad this had happened to Cliff, but I was not overly love of Buster Keaton and silent movies by delving down concerned. Quite a few residents had been emergency YouTube rabbit holes, noting how Buster’s physical comedy airlifted out before for more basic issues, simply because of twirls and leaps were forever immortalized in a digital of our more rural location and limited resources. Almost realm for future generations. I was able to coax him out all patients returned, and if not, it was because they had of bed and out into town to visit local museums, and to decided to live in the new hospital to which they had been sit and watch the ocean at the harbor. He worked at relocated. teaching me a few phrases from the different languages he had picked up during his travels. We shared a fear of However, a week later, the email popped up in our the dentist and I promised Cliff I would stay with him when inbox. The hospital informed us “CM passed away.” No he was scheduled a mandatory visit. I helped him out of explanation. No context. I was still in shock for the rest his wheelchair and into the exam chair, held his hand while of the day. The rest of the residents did not know and we the dentist drilled, and winced along with him when it were not to tell them yet. I was surprised how easy it was seemed like the drill hit a nerve. to smile, joke, and carry on as if nothing was out of the ordinary. I had worked with Cliff everyday for five months. On a Friday, the last day I saw him – though I had no idea it That night in bed, however, I tossed and turned for a few would be the last – he suddenly said, “You know, I had a hours. I sat up, frustrated with this newfound insomnia, dream last night and we were in it together.” and, suddenly and inexplicably, started sobbing. I wondered why I was hit so hard. I felt silly, almost “Really? What happened?” I asked. overdramatic. I had known Cliff for less than a year. While I had worked with him everyday, it did not span the Before he could answer, a nurse walked in. “Cliff, your entire day or focus solely on him, since there were 11 other daughter is here to see you.” residents to consider. I wasn’t his family. I was a caregiver, a trained worker, who should have realized death was This was relatively momentous. His daughter lived out of always a natural stage in this kind of work. Did I have any the state normally and, in my five months of knowing Cliff, real right to mourn like this? If I felt this way, I could only he had never had a visitor. I hurried out so his daughter imagine what his family was going through. I probably could come in. I continued on with my shift and towards didn’t know his life story beyond his recent travels and the end of the day, I checked to see where Cliff was. He interests. There were so many things I didn’t and wouldn’t w as still with his daughter. No matter, I thought. I’ll catch know about him. Then I was reminded: his dream of us. I up with him on Monday. would never know what it was. I sobbed harder. On Monday morning, I walked into his room but he was A few weeks later, for the first time, the hospital began gone and the bed was made. I checked some communal offering grief counseling to employees. I had not spaces, but Cliff was nowhere. During our morning staff improved: I still missed Cliff but felt guilt for feeling the loss meeting, we were told that Cliff had fallen from his so acutely. But it felt like a sign. Cliff himself had espoused wheelchair during the weekend. He was stabilized, but the the benefits of therapy and the importance of excavating 45